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High Dynamic Range

HDR – High Dynamic Range

One of my favourite pictures to take is one in HDR (High Dynamic Range). For me in the beginning it involved one over exposed one normal and one underexposed pictures (Bracketing) some cameras and even drones have AV mode Auto Bracketing.

Why use AEB/HDR photography

Camera sensor limitations make it difficult to capture highlights and low lights (shadows) in one picture without something being sacrificed. A simple example could be when the camera settings for the foreground is under exposed but sky exposed correctly and when you adjust the sky becomes over exposed but foreground is good, so we can merge these pictures together taking the good pieces from both.

Examples of when to use HDR:

  • Architecture interiors,
  • Landscapes,
  • Sunsets
  • Night time – cityscapes.
  • Black and white – tone mapped can be great too.

E.g. with bright light in windows, a dark building without enough light, shadows, helps bring out textures

AEB- Common selections are 3, 5, 7. E.g. 3 pictures, one at 0 then one stop above and one stop below only adjusting shutter speed. (EV Exposure value another word for Stop) As time has progressed and I have become happier with my images I find 5 different pictures merged together gives me great results. I always make sure my images are taken in a RAW format, this gives me a more advanced post processing options. RAW pictures are a lot less processed and take up more space on a memory card so you want to make sure you have a good sized one with a fast transfer speed. This speed up the time the camera takes to transfer or save the picture thus letting you take the next one quicker.

Some things to keep in mind during Camera Setup and some preferred settings:

  • AEB – Auto exposure bracketing or aperture priority mode/A not fully manual can make things a lot better and allows you to keep the same depth of field in the picture. Aperture should remain constant and shutter speed should change to correct the amount of light hitting the lens.
  • Setup for 0 on you camera’s meter (Evaluative metering)
  • Manual focus to keep the same focus point while changing bracketing.
  • Having a nice calm day and not windy for your drone will keep things steady, if you are taken these pictures with a camera do not forget your tripod.

Once you have your required pictures you then merge these pictures together with software. Photomatix is my preferred software but other ways to do this are In camera (only JPG), Photoshop HDR Pro, Lightroom, Nik editing – Plugin, Photomatix Pro, Aurora, EasyHDR, Luminance HDR (free). Remember when merging your images together to look out for ghosting, this is when the images are overlapped together but the alignment is off causing a ghost like shadow.

The colours that come out are brilliant and these pictures really stand out from the crowd. Not only do you have a picture taken with a drone that is from a completely different angle that most people can manage you also have some very vibrant clear pictures. Commonly used or spoken about HDR styles:

  • Balanced
  • Painterly
  • Natural
  • Surreal
  • Enhanced

Tone-mapping can have similar end products as HDR but this is only one single photograph. Before editing the picture, make sure your single photograph has good detail. Single photographs can be underexposed and over exposed using software and merged together. The drawbacks from tone mapping are that this process does not use the whole range of your camera’s sensor. You will find a lot of phones which can capture HDR images will actually use this process.

I know there could be some strange acronyms or things mentioned throughout this post but as you develop, play and have fun with your camera or drone a lot of these things will become second nature. I had dabbled a bit in photography previously and with the help of Shaw Academy was able to understand the concept of bracketing and using RAW files a lot easier. You can find my review of Shaw Academy in one of my previous blog posts


  Futurephoto high dynamic range image  Futurephoto HDR image

Above are two pictures I took with my drone, they consisted of 5 bracketed picture’s and merged together using photomatix software.

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